On a Sunday evening, Dutch highways led me to Utrecht. It was a Finnish package that drew my attention with former Nightwish singer Tarja and power metallers Stratovarius performing a co-headliner show under the header of ‘A Nordic Symphony ‘18’.
Before the Finns entered the stage it was up to the London-based quintet Serpentyne to get some first energy into the Ronda room at TivoliVredenburg. I have to admit that my music radar didn’t recognize Serpentyne earlier and I also have to say that I didn’t miss too much. The guys played a 30 minutes set with songs that are somewhere between rock and symphonic metal with a stronger folk and Celtic influence. Looking at the band with their costumes felt like a kind of medieval event, which actually supported the music well. The bad thing though was, that the songs were average mystic folk rock/metal songs that didn’t really ignite the spark and the only moment that brought a bit more movement into the crowd was when the bagpipe provided a catchy melody. 30 minutes was definitely enough and folks spent a polite applause.
After a quick stage reset it was Stratovarius started the Nordic part of the night. The guys recently released with ‘Enigma: Intermission 2‘ a second compilation album with four new songs and the show came right in time to promote the new record. Since the setlist was rather short it was only the single release ‘Oblivion’ that represented the new album, while the powerful ‘Enigma’ and ‘Burn Me Down’ had to stay in the box. Stratovarius focused instead on older material with a three songs presence from the 1997 ‘Visions’ album’. Fans appreciated these classics and it was THE Stratovarius smasher ‘Hunting High and Low’ from the ‘Infinite’ album that created a finale furioso. The song is made for a sing-a-long part, which also happened in Utrecht and it was Kotipelto animating the fans to sings louder than the German audience earlier on this tour. I don’t know how loud the Germans were, but the Dutch crowd was really loud, at the third attempt. Stratovarius played a solid, but not mind-blowing show. What was missing a bit was a more agile stage acting, with the exception of Kotipelto being the only restless mind on stage.
While waiting for the Tarja show to begin, I got the impression that some fans came specifically for Tarja, while other wanted to see Stratovarius and now it was time for the Tarja fans. Although it was a co-headliner show, Tarja was welcomed with a frenetic applause, setting the right context for starting the set with ‘Demons in You’. That Tarja is an excellent singer is actually nothing that needs to be mentioned. It’s a well-known fact. What was impressive though was the heavy and dense sound though. Guitarist Alex Scholpp provided a lot of riff power during the nearly 70 minutes show, which made tunes like ‘500 Letters’ and ‘Love to Hate’ much harder than on CD.
Another thing is Tarja’s stage presence. From the first moment, until the last note is fading away, she is present – with her voice, her agility and her gestures. Three different outfits added a visual dynamic to the evening and altogether was rewarded by fans with loud cheering, plus a teddy bear and roses, handed over by fans during the show.
And as usual, the highlight was kept until the end. ‘Until My Last Breathe’ was the song everybody wanted to hear and the classic from the ‘What Lies Beneath’ album was an excellent closer of a pretty cool show. Tarja’s show was impressive, heavy, loud and passionate. What more could you wish for?
Location: TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Date: October 7th, 2018